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Apart from the 12 Russians he has accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential election, two other figures play a prominent role in Robert Mueller’s July 13 indictment. Part two of a three-part series. Read part one.
Part two of a three-part series. Read part one.
In the prologue of this series, we saw the breathtaking scope of Mueller’s dishonesty regarding the behavior and motives of one of them: the mysterious “Guccifer 2.0” (G2), who emerged online to take credit for the now-infamous Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee’s servers just one day after the Washington Post broke the story with the headline: “Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump.”
Mueller claims that his indicted Russians created G2 and, to deflect blame away from themselves, had the fake online persona take responsibility for the alleged DNC hack but deny being Russian. How could they have expected anyone to believe G2’s disavowals, given that a Russian spy would lie about his identity as a matter of course? It doesn’t really matter. As we’ve established, the public record directly contradicts Mueller’s story.
Contra Mueller, G2 never made any serious effort to repudiate the widely held belief that he was Russian until his final communication to the world; seven months after his debut, by which time all but a few skeptical researchers took his Russian origins for granted. Moreover, Mueller neglects to mention that the “allegations of Russian responsibility” for the DNC hack he claims G2 was created to deflect, resulted almost entirely from G2’s own behavior; behavior that is only explicable if the truth is the exact reverse of what Mueller alleges and G2 was intentionally planting clues designed to establish Russia’s culpability.
We saw, for example, that G2 inserted a Russian emoticon in the second sentence of his very first blog post; something obviously no Russian spy pretending to be otherwise would do.
The first files G2 released also contained the name of the founder of the Soviet secret police in their metadata; written in the Russian alphabet no less, and discovered by a Gawker reporter within hours of their release. Even putting aside later technical analysis showing that the Russian spymaster’s name was intentionally placed in the metadata mere minutes before G2 released the files, Putin’s implied inability to find agents capable of matching wits with Gawker’s staff alone makes it preposterous that G2 is, as Mueller alleges, a Russian agent.
Mueller’s story also makes it impossible to understand why G2’s attempt to take responsibility for the alleged DNC hack was taken seriously. Anyone, after all, can claim to be the party mentioned in yesterday’s sensational headline. So, why were G2’s claims so widely believed? As we also saw, Mueller, oddly enough, doesn’t mention the substantiating evidence G2 produced.
Recall that the Washington Post headline, besides announcing a Russian hack of the DNC, also revealed that a file of Trump opposition research was stolen. G2 took advantage of this odd piece of collateral information to establish his bona fides as the culpable party by releasing 230 pages of Trump opposition research. Moreover, apart from having “Феликс Эдмундович” in the metadata and other evidence of Russian involvement so blatant and gratuitous, it could only have been planted intentionally, the very same file turned up in Wikileaks’ October 7, 2016 release of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails.
So, besides confirming G2’s attempt to own the alleged DNC hack, the Trump oppo file also seems to provide the best possible evidence that G2 passed documents to Wikileaks. Yet, though Mueller’s indictment contains an entire section titled “Stolen Documents Released through Guccifer 2.0,” and though Wikileaks connection to Russian intelligence is one of his main allegations, the special counsel is entirely mum about the Trump opposition research file.
To understand why Mueller omits the one piece of evidence that seems to establish one of his central allegations, we now turn to his misrepresentations about the other unindicted individual who nonetheless looms large in his narrative: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Mueller’s evidence that G2 passed documents to Wikileaks—which the indictment refers to as “Organization 1”—comes entirely from alleged private messages between the two:
On or about June 22, 2016, Organization 1 sent a private message to Guccifer 2.0 to “[s]end any new material [stolen from the DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.” On or about July 6, 2016, Organization 1 added, “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic] because the DNC [Democratic National Convention] is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” The Conspirators responded, “ok . . . i see.” Organization 1 explained, “we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary . . . so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”
After failed attempts to transfer the stolen documents starting in late June 2016, on or about July 14, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, sent Organization 1 an email with an attachment titled “wk dnc link1.txt.gpg.” The Conspirators explained to Organization 1 that the encrypted file contained instructions on how to access an online archive of stolen DNC documents. On or about July 18, 2016, Organization 1 confirmed it had “the 1Gb or so archive” and would make a release of the stolen documents “this week.” On or about July 22, 2016, Organization 1 released over 20,000 emails and other documents stolen from the DNC network by the Conspirators. This release occurred approximately three days before the start of the Democratic National Convention. Organization 1 did not disclose Guccifer 2.0’s role in providing them. The latest-in-time email released through Organization 1 was dated on or about May 25, 2016, approximately the same day the Conspirators hacked the DNC Microsoft Exchange Server.
Putting aside for a moment questions about the authenticity of these quotes and what, if anything, they really establish, Mueller’s story is still puzzling. Assange, after all, can’t release files without first checking their authenticity since anything sent to him might contain something intended to discredit Wikileaks. So if Mueller is to be believed, Wikileaks rigorously reviewed over 20,000 emails, over 10,000 attached files, and over 30,000 files of associated metadata in at most four days; the time between G2’s allegedly sending them instructions on how to access the file on July 14 and WikiLeaks’ response that they were ready to publish it on July 18. Wherever Mueller may have obtained those quotes, what he claims they imply simply isn’t possible.
It’s equally impossible that G2 spent more than two weeks making “failed attempts” to pass a 1 GB file to Julian Assange if, as Mueller alleges, the two were in league. G2 is, after all, supposed to be a computer expert technically savvy enough to have hacked into and removed those very files from the Democratic National Committee’s servers. Assange, on the other hand, started public life as a brilliant 16-year old celebrity hacker, continually demonstrated his technical acumen in the intervening years; and Wikileaks, of course, is in the business of managing and transferring large files. It beggars’ belief that computer experts of their caliber would need two weeks to figure out how to pass a file along that’s smaller than a typical movie download; all the more, given that Mueller alleges WikiLeaks had previously told G2 they were in a hurry due to the approaching Democratic National Convention.
One reason G2 might have had problems passing files to Assange is if the latter had no interest in receiving them. Indeed, a close parsing of Mueller’s legalese reveals that nothing in the quotes he provides in any way establishes that G2 was one of Assange’s sources for DNC material—or anything else.
Making Sense of Mueller’s Legalese
We aren’t told how Mueller obtained the alleged messages between G2 and WikiLeaks he unironically calls “private.” But Mueller issued his indictment knowing full well he lacks any power to compel the accused Russians to appear in court, where he would have to prove these online conversations actually occurred and that he hasn’t distorted their meaning. That’s enough to suspend the trust we ordinarily place in a prosecutor’s account of basic matters of fact when we know destiny has some defense attorney waiting in the wings to expose any obvious falsehoods. And, Mueller’s breathtakingly false claims about G2 uncovered in the first part of this series make it foolish to direct anything short of full-blown doubt towards anything he says that can’t be verified.
But suppose, regardless, that Wikileaks did write to G2 on June 22, 2016, as Mueller’s indictment alleges:
[s]end any new material [stolen from the DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.
Note first that “stolen from the DNC” is bracketed and, hence, doesn’t appear in the original quote; and, we’re told nothing that justifies its insertion. Nor are we told whether this is their first exchange or Wikileaks’ response to some earlier message from G2.
In either case, the quote appears to rule out that G2 was already a Wikileaks source since, if he were, they would hardly have to try to convince him that his way of proceeding is ill-advised and that he should, instead, send any files he has to them for review.
The first quote Mueller provides might just represent Wikileaks reaching out to G2 after being alarmed by his flamboyant debut (which, as we will see, they had substantial reason to be). Or it might be a response to an earlier inquiry by G2 that, like the Trump opposition file, Mueller isn’t mentioning. In any event, nothing about the quote in any way establishes that G2 passed any documents to Assange.
Mueller next tells us that Wikileaks “added” that they were in a hurry to get any documents because of the approaching Democratic convention. But “added” is a strange choice of words given that the date of their second message, July 6, is a full two weeks after the previous one cited. Were there any communications between G2 and Wikileaks in those intervening two weeks that might shed light on the quoted messages? Since Mueller doesn’t seem to want us to know, likely we never will. In any event, nothing about the remarks Wikileaks is alleged to have “added” to a message sent two weeks earlier indicates that G2 passed any files to Assange. Nor does G2’s alleged contribution to the exchange—“ok…I see”—do so. Though one can’t help but wonder what G2 said in place of Mueller’s ellipses since what remains is practically contentless.
In short, the Mueller indictment’s entire case that Assange published documents acquired from G2 depends on one sentence; Mueller’s allegation that,
Organization 1 confirmed it had “the 1Gb or so archive” and would make a release of the stolen documents “this week.”
This account of WikiLeaks “confirmation” is so expurgated that it’s puzzling why Mueller bothered quoting from it at all. Moreover, notice that Mueller does not say to whom WikiLeaks “confirmation” was sent; he tells us that “Organization 1 confirmed” its possession of a certain file but not to whom it confirmed that fact. Nor does Mueller assert that G2’s final attempt to send the files to Assange was successful; rather, he counts on our tacitly drawing this conclusion from Wikileaks’ “confirmation.”
So, it’s entirely consistent with the way Mueller chose to express himself that Wikileaks’ message “confirming” that they would release a “1GB or so archive” was addressed to someone other than G2 and that the file referred to isn’t the one that he alleges G2 tried giving WikiLeaks. That would explain why Mueller bothered quoting the definite description “the 1GB or so archive” rather than simply saying that Wikileaks confirmed that it would release the files G2 made available, since the latter claim would be false. If the “the 1GB or so archive” didn’t come from G2, the difficulty of overcoming the short amount of time Wikileaks had to scrutinize the emails, attachments, and associated metadata would also be eliminated.
Unlike his deceptions about G2, we’ve no way of checking whether Mueller’s allegations against Assange are true. Hence, we might never know whether his account of Wikileaks behavior is as duplicitous as his account of G2’s. All we can say for sure is that Mueller chose language whose literally meaning leaves open that G2 didn’t pass any files to Assange. Indeed, surprisingly, Mueller never even actually says that G2 was the source of the July 22 WikiLeaks release. He sets the reader up to implicitly draw that conclusion by saying, Wikileaks “did not disclose Guccifer 2.0’s role in providing” it; but that would be true even if G2 played no role at all.
Moreover, Mueller presumably had access to G2 and WikiLeaks’ entire correspondence. So why are we given such scant evidence and left with so limited an understanding about their alleged relationship? Mueller isn’t, after all, submitting a college term paper with a length limit. Even if the information comes from the NSA and some of it is too sensitive to release, surely a few redacted passages could be presented so we know, to name just name a few things; who initiated contact, for how long it had been going on, and in what some of the “failed attempts” to transfer the files consisted. And some fuller quote actually establishing that WikiLeaks July 22 release really did come from G2 must have been possible than the anemic result of Mueller’s filling in the blanks between “the 1GB or so archive” and “this week.”
Mueller’s evidence that G2 passed documents to Assange withers away under careful examination. But its flimsiness is odd on its face since, as with the Trump opposition research file, Mueller neglects to mention facts in the public record that seem to better establish connections between G2 and Wikileaks than the risibly expurgated results of his alleged eavesdropping.
Mueller’s First Omission About Assange and What It Shows
Why, for example, does Mueller depend entirely on such weak sauce when G2 explicitly admitted to being a WikiLeaks source in his very first blog post?
The main part of the papers, thousands of files and mails, I gave to Wikileaks. They will publish them soon.
One obvious reason for omitting G2’s explicit confession is that it makes a mess of Mueller’s timeline. On June 15, we have G2 publicly saying he already gave Wikileaks the DNC files. Yet, according to Mueller, there had been only “failed attempts” to transfer them until July 14.
But that doesn’t explain why Mueller doesn’t mention any of the other 11 times that G2 publicly connected himself with Assange, none of which cause any conflict with the indictment’s timeline and four of which involve G2 explicitly claiming to work for Wikileaks, twice as their source! One would think that a prosecutor presenting evidence that someone committed a crime would mention that the accused confessed if he did so even once, let alone on at least five separate occasions. Yet anyone relying solely on Mueller’s indictment would think G2 never uttered a word that might connect him with Julian Assange.
Which is, of course, exactly what G2 would have done were he really a Russian spy in league with Assange, as the government alleges. Mueller couldn’t mention any of the numerous times G2 confessed to being a Wikileaks’ source or intimated connections to Assange because those confessions and intimations make it impossible that he was any such thing.
Julian Assange is, after all, notorious for keeping his sources secret. So, G2 explicitly and repeatedly identifying himself as such virtually refutes itself. G2’s preempting WikiLeaks’ release of the Trump opposition research file he claims he sent them also speaks against the claim being true. But Mueller’s allegation that G2 is a creation of Russian intelligence makes the idea that he would publicly connect himself to Assange, like so much else that Mueller is peddling, preposterous.
The June 14 Washington Post story announcing the alleged Russian hack of the DNC makes absolutely no mention of Assange or Wikileaks. The first and only evidence that the Russians passed documents to Wikileaks came from G2 presenting himself as a conduit between them by planting clues that he was Russian and repeatedly announcing that he worked for WikiLeaks.
Mueller would have us believe that, upon being outed in the Washington Post, the 12 indicted Russians created the fake G2 persona to take credit for the hack and, thus, deflect blame away from themselves. But besides bungling the operation so badly that its immediate effect was to leave obvious clues that had the opposite result of causing widespread speculation that G2 was with Russian intelligence, they also had G2 immediately and repeatedly connect himself to Julian Assange, even though there was nothing at all prior to his emergence linking the two. As a result, if Mueller’s story is to be believed, his indicted Russian spies not only instantly, continually, and exponentially increased speculation that they were responsible for the alleged DNC hack, they also revealed their connection to Wikileaks, which no one would have known anything about had G2 simply exercised enough self-control not to shout out to Julian Assange like a lovesick schoolgirl.
It strains belief that any professional spies would be so inept as to give their entire game away with their very first move. But in asking us to believe that Russia would assign agents this incompetent to sabotage the United States presidential election, Mueller insults both nations’ intelligence.
Mueller’s Second Omission About Assange and What It Hides
It begins to look like G2 was created to tarnish Julian Assange’s reputation by creating a fake connection between Wikileaks and Russian intelligence. And one final (at least so far as this investigation is concerned) curious omission on Mueller’s part confirms the appearance:
On June 12, just two days before the Washington Post announced that the Russians had hacked the DNC, Julian Assange announced that Wikileaks had and would soon be releasing Clinton campaign emails.
The next Wikileaks release after Assange’s announcement contained the emails from the DNC hack that Mueller alleges Assange acquired from G2 on July 18. So, one reason Mueller might have omitted mentioning Assange’s June 12 announcement is that it’s another very inconvenient piece of evidence for his timeline.
Moreover, the only evidence favoring Mueller’s temporal reckoning of events is an almost entirely expurgated quote from an alleged WikiLeaks email that we’ve no reason to think even existed and, when taken literally, turns out to be no evidence at all. The alternative timeline is supported by Assange’s explicit assertion on cable television. Regardless of the legality or even the morality of their respective endeavors, one would have to be deranged to accept Mueller’s or any of his spook compatriots’ word over that of Assange, who has yet to be caught in a lie.
But Assange’s June 12 announcement does more than contradict Mueller’s feeble evidence he was working for Russian intelligence. Together with the other information, Mueller omitted concerning the Trump opposition research file and G2’s repeated attempts to connect himself with Wikileaks, it casts the June 14 Washington Post story announcing the alleged Russian hack of the DNC in a new and revealing light.
When Assange made his announcement on June 12, the Clinton campaign knew something of which the world at large was still unaware: three months earlier, on March 19, John Podesta was tricked into giving away the password to his main Gmail account and, as a result, all his campaign emails, which included a file of Trump opposition research, fell into unfriendly hands.
Next: The final installment of Michael Thau’s exposé on the lies at the heart of Robert Mueller’s July 13 Indictment.